How do you start writing a document, and what are the various elements you need to consider? Whether your team needs a document about a specific topic on short notice, or you simply need to communicate something to another person via email, effective writing can sometimes be challenging.

It is common to be anxious before writing a document, especially when you stare at a blank page. Unplanned writing may lead to the exclusion of key messages; affect clarity and therefore the quality of communication, and levels of engagement from readers.

Before writing any kind of document, whether it is an email, report, or an official announcement – here are five handy tips to consider.

  • Identify the subject

What are you writing about? If you are not sure of the subject, it will be much harder to convey your ideas clearly. Allow yourself time to do some research if required. It is essential to have clarity from the start.

  • Identify the purpose

Identifying the purpose of the document goes hand in hand with identifying the subject. The document must have a defined objective whether it is raising awareness, highlighting an important issue or concluding a negotiation. Identifying purpose is as important as identifying the subject in order for a document to have the desired impact.

If a colleague or senior has assigned the document, do not hesitate to ask questions or request for clarifications.  For example, you can ask about the key message that document needs to highlight or reinforce, if anything is unclear.

  • Know your reader

Knowing your audience will help you define language, style, tone and the amount of detail to include in the document. You might have to adapt and write in a style different to your normal approach, but this can make a huge difference. Keep in mind that communication is effective only when your message reaches and is understood well by your intended audience.

  • Gather and develop your ideas

When the subject, purpose and intended audience have been identified, you can collating your ideas and related research. Make a list of all of the important points to include in the document so nothing is missed.

  • Organize your ideas

What comes first and what follows? How should you conclude your document? Determine the relationship between the ideas, how the pieces fit together and how concepts can be presented in the clearest way possible. It is useful to have a broad idea of structure in advance.

Once you have made your way through this checklist, you are primed to draft your document or communication asset.

To discover more writing tips check out our online course on “Effective Writing Skills”: